“Did you get married for what he can do for you or for what you can do for him?”
I turned around to look in the eyes of one of my closest friends. She was serious. It was only a year into my marriage and in typical girlfriend fashion, I’d just given her the play by play on what I needed my husband to do for me.
Funny…I’d never thought about her question before and I told her as much. I finally answered in my typical transparent fashion. I said, “I think that in some ways I’m in this relationship in order for him to fulfill the things I feel are missing in me.”
On the surface, that seemed okay. We are all looking for people to complement us (as opposed to the whole Jerry Maguire-ish ‘you complete me’ which I can’t stand to hear anyone say). However, she then said something I swear could have only come from the mouth of God. She said, “In a relationship, Tracey, you should be spending most of your time trying to out-love the person you are with. You should be constantly thinking of ways to love him better than the day before. Better even then he is loving you. And he should do the same. Two people out-loving each other makes for a good marriage.”
Yikes! She’s right.
If our marriages are supposed to mirror in many ways the relationship we should be striving to have with God–and I think they should–then it’s best that each party spends less time nit-picking about what the other person is or is not doing for them (barring anything major like infidelity, abuse) and spend more time figuring out ways to love him or her more.
But that’s the thing. If we’re honest, most of us do not think of our marriages as a way to honor and worship God. And even if we do, most of us struggle with finding ways to love God more–despite His continuous and unconditional love for our sin-ridden selves–so it is certainly going to prove troublesome to try to love someone who’s humanity is just as faulty as ours.
Yet, we are called to love them anyway. Deeply. Widely. In fact, we should out-love them. Raise the stakes. I admit that this kind of sparks a little bit of my competitive side as I think of ways that I can love God first, then my man, better than the day before. So I came up with a couple of ways we all can start today to “Out Love” our spouses.
Silence Your Complaints for a Season
Okay, so I’m a savvy complainer. I don’t just stand around and whine. That’s for amateurs. LOL! I find strategic ways to incorporate my complaints into everyday living. Like over dinner, as we are chatting about our day, sliding in a comment or two about how if he’d only done this or that then the other would not have happened. Then returning to my meal and conversation as though I hadn’t just knocked him upside the head with something he did wrong in my eyes.
Yeah, don’t do that.
Make a commitment for a day, week, or month to not complain about what he or she did or didn’t do. It’s not about holding everything in. It’s about replacing your complaints with prayer. See I’m sure you never heard the old mothers in church sing, “Complainin’ change things.” Nope, me either. But I have heard that PRAYER changes things and by taking some time off from venting and releasing our need to control outcomes, we allow God to do the work necessary in our spouses and–wait for it–in us. This is the best way to love: giving them room to mess up and giving God room to correct.
Still working on this one. 🙂
Model the “Meeting of Needs”
Another area in which I struggle but am growing.
So this doesn’t mean that if you love receiving flowers that you bombard your spouse with flowers. You aren’t modeling YOUR needs. You are modeling the meeting of needs. The act of “meeting a need.” Humans—yes, which includes your spouse–tend to mimic even unconsciously what they see (Even yawns are contagious). If your wife has had a long day and you know that coming home and cooking dinner will make it longer, then become “Chef for the Day” or “That Take-out Dude.” By meeting her needs, you have set a precedent that says, “I will be here to do what I can to relieve your stress.” Hopefully, this will return to you double-fold as both you and your wife strive to Out-love each other. Sidebar: You don’t do this with the intention of GETTING something later. You do this with the intention of genuinely loving your spouse.
I suppose the beauty in all this is if I consciously and intentionally put love and loving in my regular rotation of “things to do” then I will likely not focus on what I think I’m missing. Which of course will allow God the opportunity to fill those holes in me like only He can; holes that my man could never fix anyway.
Plus, if God extends his grace and mercy to us; loves us individually without condition each and every day despite our propensity for sin and such, how much more should we extend the same grace and mercy and love to the ones we’ve pledged our lives to in the same way?
QUESTION: What are some ways you can start (or continue) to OUT-LOVE your spouse?